Amarillo NWS satellite provides wildfire notifications to emergency crews

The National Weather Service is keeping an eye on their infrared satellite in order to spot wildfires that spark in the area. (ABC 7 Amarillo)

Some of the smallest tools being used by the Texas A&M Forest Service can't extinguish a fire but they can determine what's happening in our atmosphere.

"In our job knowing what our weather is going to be doing is paramount for us to develop a plan that's going to keep our firefighters safe," Regional Fire Coordinator Troy Ducheneaux said.

That's why Forest Service officials out on the scene of a fire and even across the state are monitoring behaviors of the weather and raging fires.

"They look at our current weather, what our trends are doing and even past fire behavior from fires that occurred in the past," Ducheneux said. "They develop some ideas of what that fire is going to be doing."

When fire fighters end up on the front lines of a blaze, a spot forecast is even more important. Those are requested from the National Weather Service.

"We actually give the meteorologists a specific area where they will then develop a forecast for that particular location, according to the GPS coordinates," Ducheneaux said.

"They can request it online and it will beep in the office immediately," Michael Gittinger, NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist said. "In less than 30 minutes we can have that detailed forecast out for the area of the fire."

Even before a fire sparks the NWS plays a role in assisting fire crews. This happens through daily briefings and even notifications of a fire through infrared technology.

"We're looking at the infrared satellite that can actually see the heat radiation from a fire," Gittinger said. "Every 15 minutes or 30 minutes we get a new satellite image and we would see a hot spot because the heat radiation would show up on there."

The NWS is experimenting with a new notification system that's sending GPS coordinates of those hot spots directly to officials registered in their system.

"We know there have been a handful of fires that this was their first notification because it was in a rural area where there was a potential fire," Gittinger said.

This partnership between weather experts and fire crews goes a long way even once the fire is out.

"Knowing there are first responders out there working, we're on the lookout for any type of weather that might impact their operations and give them a heads up on that," Gittinger said.

For forecasts and analysis from the Texas A&M Forest Service, click HERE.

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